Monday, August 18, 2014

Samoa Warrior Race 2014

After the fantastic experience I had in Samoa last year, it was an easy decision to return. This year I was limited to a shorter stay in Samoa as I am headed to the USA for the Hyvee US 5150 championships on the 31 August. It was great to be able to showcase  the country of Samoa this year to fellow pro Sam Betten and to share the communities enormous hospitality and culture.

We arrived in the early hours of the morning on the Thursday before the race so the first few days were spent relaxing, visiting rock pools and sipping coconuts. Friday we gathered for the parade through Apia and the opening ceremony for the event. As the highest ranked female returning warrior, I was asked to say a few words about the race at the ceremony. It was a great opportunity to thank Seti Afoa and his team for the event and all the work he has been doing to support triathlon in Samoa.

We stated in the dark on race day. It was barely day break when we started the swim (clear goggles recommended). I was happy with my progress after the first lap, sitting comfortably with the main pack of men. I was delighted to see a young Samoan boy mixing it up in the swim pack, there is definitely some raw talent in Samoa. The swim for this years race was in a slightly different location requiring a 600m run from the swim exit to transition. We all decided to use shoes to run the distance. I fell a fraction off the back of the group towards the end of the second lap of the swim and decided to run bear foot to transition with shoes and socks in hand. A slightly risky strategy but it was ok in the end.

I left T1 in no mans land and was struggling to obtain momentum on the bike. Last year a number of the the pros had flat tyres so in the week before the event I took my bike into Avanti (the valley) and had my training wheels put on my TT bike and changed to thorn proof tyres. I didn't get any flats but, far out they were slow and tacky with terrible roll! The tussle for the lead commenced at about the thirty km mark where Julia passed me for the first time. I knew I'd be safe from flats so remained positive despite feeling very sluggish. The next time I saw Julia was on the return from the climb up Falifar Pass. Julia would have been a good 90 seconds to 2m ahead at the top of the 5k climb so I needed to get a wriggle on if I was going to regain the ground I'd lost. About 20k from home I regained the lead after Julia got a flat. In the end the trade off between a flat tyre for terrible rolling tyres seemed about even.

Mead Norton Photography

I hit the run out of T2 in front, but after a quick first couple kilometres I became vey cautious of  the heat. It would have been at least 34 degrees (quite possibly more with the radiant heat from the road). I decided to play safe and run conservatively. So after two kilometres, Julia passed me back. I started to notice a number of the men struggling with the heat and so I payed very close attention to ensuring my hydration and nutrition were optimal. I drank at every aid station and used the sponge at every aid station. I took three Endura gels on the run, using two, one at 9km and the other at 14km.

By 15km I had somewhat recovered from the ride and was starting to feel the effects of the gel. My energy levels were up and I could see Julia fading off the back of Jo Carroll (one lap behind but running superbly). I decided that if I could control myself in the heat I could make a play for the lead. At the 15k turn I was about 400m behind, and after receiving encouragement from the crowd, I up'ed the pace. I ended up catching Julia at about the 17.5k mark.  With 3ks to go I pushed on. I was uncertain how much she had left, particularly as we had been battling and switching the lead all day. I wasn't sure I had enough of a gap until I could actually see the finish line at 100m to go.

Mead Norton Photography

I am delighted to have taken the win and will use this as a very positive experience going in to Hyvee. Most of my training has been focused on shorter faster racing in preparation for Hyvee. I was very happy to have survived and am encouraged by the strength of the back end of my run. The times for the day were significantly impacted by the road conditions, the steep climb on the bike and the heat on the run.

All-in-all a tough day out in the heat and tough terrain but worth it for the views and the racing. Thanks to my sponsors, Endura, Compressport, Brooks running, Orca and Reddog triathlon training.